You can’t swing a dead cat in Chicago without hitting one of Richard Hunt’s peaceable public sculptures. The stacked totems of winged industrial blocks and holes sit outside hospitals, schools, libraries, churches and government buildings, but Hunt doesn’t exile his monoliths to the elements. Some of his pieces live inside buildings, like the appropriately titled “Oasis” inside the Kafka-esque Stroger Hospital of Cook County, and, currently, a collection of his less sizable work is under the roof of the David Weinberg Gallery.
Hunt’s public work has become shinier, larger and more ambiguous since the beginning of his career in the 1950s, and he’s had many opportunities to evolve: he has created and displayed more public sculptures than any artist. His smaller-scale work, like the larger, has become less and less anthropomorphic. Hunt has traded eyes, mouths and limbs for angular swoops, balanced curves and holes planted in blocks. Not to say that the viewer can’t find, say, a horsey or serpentine quality in his work; his sculptures imply an organic, flowing, upward movement. Even the lower-lying floor sculptures, like “Low-Flight,” a buffed, stainless-steel space-ship-snake-nest sprays its chunky twirls upward.
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Beverly Kedzior, "Gummy Trail I," mixed media on paper
This group show at David Weinberg Gallery brings together the work of three female Chicago artists: Stephanie Serpick, Beverly Kedzior and Tricia Rumbolz. Rumbolz’s work is one part meticulous technician and one part performance. Her “Dots” series is displayed in the gallery’s intimate back room. Accomplished in 12-, 24- and 48-hour periods, the artist committed herself to stitching tiny white dots in a loose, draping square shape. The sheer persistence at work in these pieces is impressive. Beverly Kedzior’s paintings function as a bouncy contrast in color and form. Her layered patterning presents a kind of ethereal cartoon world and all the works reference each other. The third artist, Serpick, culls the meditative element from Rumbolz’s work and contains evidence of Kedizior’s overlay of structures.
It comes as no surprise that Serpick is a graphic designer by trade. The designs that course through her work are emblematic of trends that are widely used across print and advertising mediums. Fleur-de-lis decorative trails run throughout a number of popular advertisements, and despite the overuse of these designs, her skill as a painter gives a luscious and layered treatment to what would otherwise be an overused motif. Her careful drafting is all hand-done and she expertly executes the veil-like layers that are evident in all of her works for the “Overlap” show. The gradation of color in these paintings defies photographic representation and I found that the Web site images differ significantly from the real thing. If there is one thing that links all three of the artists in the “Overlap” exhibit, it is their defiance of digital reproduction, and each would best be considered in person. (MK Meador)
Through February 21 at David Weinberg Gallery, 300 W. Superior.
Once the wild-men fundamentalists of postmodern meta-photography, gaining fame (or notoriety) through the Duchampian gesture of ripping photographs and getting them displayed on gallery walls, the fabled Starn twins, Mike and Doug, have over the decades progressively atoned for their sin—or have undergone a spiritual growth process—and have now devoted themselves to creating, through painstaking lighting, color confections of precisely configured snowflakes that serve as glowing and exquisitely involved objects of meditation. From negation to affirmation, and minimalism to plenitude, the Starn twins have remained steadfast in their aim of deploying photography as a means of moving minds; although they labored for three years to perfect a process of capturing the snowflake on a glass plate and accentuating its intricate structure, the viewer has no interest in the artifice, but only in the captivating, pulsing result. (Michael Weinstein)
Mike and Doug Starn show through January 3 at David Weinberg Gallery, 300 W. Superior, (312)529-5090.
Does postmodern photography, drenched in irony and fascination with culture at the expense of flesh, bring anything to the table as political artists begin to play their hands in earnest? The five photo-artists in this political show strive mightily to break through the confines of cultural criticism with varied success. Krista Wortendyke does the best by mixing lush color photographs based on appropriated images from movies, video games and newspapers in suites and assemblages depicting striking battle scenes and magnificent explosions, creating a garish romance of war that shows us how we have been seduced into ignoring the unpleasant realities of carnage. Second place goes to Sonja Thomsen’s iridescent bubbly color studies of crude oil that show the aesthetic side of what the world is fighting over and remind us—again with the postmodern staple of absence—that we should stop and smell the gasoline. Wortendyke’s and Thomsen’s images do not cut to the quick, but they prepare us to make the stab. (Michael Weinstein)
Through October 18 at David Weinberg Gallery, 300 West Superior, (312)529-5090.
The opposing modernist sensibilities of pictorialism and constructivism duel to a draw in the happy pairing of straight black-and-white beauty photographers David Burdeny and Michael Parker, both of whom place an accent on complex geometrical composition. Burdeny is the romantic, traveling around the world to take dreamy shots of the artifacts that dot shorelines, like piers, anchors and jetties, prolonging his exposure at times to create a subdued effect that invites solitary contemplation. Parker, another globetrotter, gets off on power, shooting majestic architectural details from below, with a preference for grandiose ornate ceilings. The contrasting virtues of the two are highlighted by Burdeny’s exquisite study, from Tokoname, Japan, of rows of poles emerging from the water to form a ragged phalanx facing us benignly; and Parker’s assertive image of the tips of empty flag poles converging as they thrust into the sky like enormous needles. (Michael Weinstein)
Through August 30 at David Weinberg Gallery, 300 W. Superior, (312)529-5090.
For thirty years, Elizabeth Opalenik has been struggling to knit her exceedingly complex personality into a synthesis through her considerable visual intelligence in a variety of photographic genres. That she has never succeeded in producing a completed harmonious image is testimony to her steadfast adherence to the insight that there is always some hint of disconnection even in the most flowing female body or the most elegant vegetal form. As one might expect from an artist who is impelled to bring conflicting psychological desires to clarity, the thread that unites Opalenik’s images in this lavish retrospective show is surrealism—the overt vision of the disturbing dream. In her banner image, a woman in a blasted room sits on a chair reclining rigidly and looks at us with a challenge to respond to her disquieted self-possession. (Michael Weinstein)
Through May 31 at David Weinberg Gallery, 300 W. Superior.
. If you have ever been out on a night when the sky is illuminated garishly by the play of artificial light on the roiling clouds of a gathering storm, you will immediately feel the power of Amanda Friedman’s vividly etched straight color images of cities and landscapes bathed in the most alluringly dangerous lowering gray skies tinged with red, green and purple. Although Friedman’s apparent subjects—gleaming skylines, roadsides and trees—are seductive for their precisely detailed beauty, the skies themselves deliver the real impact; we know that without them we would not be attracted so magnetically by what the medieval philosophers called the tremendous and fascinating mystery of being. Only a minority of photographers addresses the sublime, which defies being framed; Friedman succeeds in conveying an overwhelming sense of power by putting familiar things in an ominous cosmos. (Michael Weinstein)
Through April 12 at David Weinberg Gallery, 300 W. Superior, (312)529-5090.